GHWA Board charts way forward for global HRH strategy

The Board warmly welcomed the new Executive Director of GHWA, Jim Campbell, and expressed confidence that, with his commitment and expertise, his appointment will mark a turning point for the Alliance. The Board also appreciated the substantial contribution of Marie-Paule Kieny and Ruediger Krech to GHWA in the gap between Executive Directors and for strengthening the relationship between GHWA and WHO.

The Board is particularly pleased with the decisions of the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) to endorse the “Recife Political Declaration” adopted at the Third Global Forum and to request a new Global Strategy for HRH to be presented to the WHA in 2016. In these decisions, the WHA has affirmed that the health workforce is central to the global health agenda and to achieving universal health coverage. The Board recognised that the outcomes of the Third Global Forum on HRH and the November 2013 Board meeting for GHWA to lead the drafting of a Global Strategy for HRH for the next 15-20 years would dovetail well into the strategy for the WHA and that it affirms a key role for GHWA. The WHA resolution provides an opportunity to shape the health workforce agenda for the next decade and to inspire transformative action in countries.

In her address to the Board, Dr Margaret Chan, the Director General of WHO, welcomed the role that GHWA has played and will play going forward. She emphasised that in addressing HRH challenges, health should not be seen as a consumptive expenditure, that we need to match growing demand and that to ask what is the right skill set needed. Dr Chan underscored the huge shortage of health workers and urged the Board to think beyond professionals. There is a need to strengthen data for more informed decision making. Dr Chan sees the process to develop a global HRH strategy as a key opportunity, which requires identifying action-oriented recommendations and practical solutions on how to strengthen the health workforce.

The Board received progress reports from and gave guidance to the 8 working groups established to inform the Global Strategy for HRH. The groups are addressing the drivers of change in health labour markets; leadership, governance and policy alignment; accountability and alignment of state and non-state actors; the role of transformative education; improving productivity and performance; building community capability; enabling change in fragile states and enhancing data and measurement. The Board sees the need for a paradigm shift towards a new and contemporary HRH agenda; one that takes stock of a decade of progress and of the lessons learned in striving to unblock health workforce bottlenecks.

The Board emphasised the importance of and agreed on a process of wide consultation with members and stakeholders in developing the final strategy, in particular harnessing inputs from countries. The drafts will be shared for comment at the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research to be held in Cape Town at the end of September 2014 an on the GHWA website, before reaching the WHO Regional Committee meetings of 2015 and the WHA in 2016. Engagement with finance, planning, education and the public service sectors will be a hallmark of this process, as will country engagement.

The Board agreed to consider at its next meetings a framework and options – including its financing and hosting - for a Fourth Global Forum on HRH.

Following a year of transition, the Board reviewed the programmatic and financial situation of the GHWA Secretariat, noting the need to intensify resource mobilization efforts and making adjustments to the 2014 workplan. The Board noted that a multi-sectoral platform aligned with the future vision to 2030 was relevant; its structure and form will be considered at the next Board Meeting, on the basis of an analysis of alternative options on how the multi-sectoral platform might be fit for purpose, including its financial viability, structure and hosting.

A number of members bid farewell to the GHWA Board, having served on it since its inception (Francisco de Campos, Bjarne Garden and Miriam Were), while others, like Eric Buch, are due to rotate out in November later this year. The Board acknowledged the outgoing Board members’ outstanding contributions to the HRH movement over these years, and their valuable service to GHWA.

Several Board members representing new countries or constituencies, including Ali Ghufron Mukti (Indonesia), Martinho Dgedge (Mozambique) and Haruna Lule (health worker constituency), attended their first GHWA Board meeting. In addition, some of the institutions currently serving on the Board saw a change in their representatives, and the Board welcomed for the first time Helga Fogstad (Norad), Eliana Cyrino (Brazil), Frances Ganges (ICM), Patrick Empey (Irish Aid), Tim Elwell –Sutton (DFID) and Li Guoqin (China). A warm farewell to our departing friends and welcome greetings to the new ones.

The full report of the 17th GHWA Board meeting will be made available on the GHWA website in a few weeks.